Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pandering to the lowest common denominator

The recent events surrounding the New Yorker magazine cover highlighted to me what Democrats wanting to win in November need to remember. The rest of the electorate is stupid. I know, I know. You're thinking this is another one of my innumerable rants about Republicans, but it's not.

Let's go through this demonstration. The New Yorker prints a very unsubtle piece of satire on it's cover. Many college educated people would understand it as such and might even laugh -- albeit a bit uneasily (more on that later). However, there is a large percentage of folks who actually see the cover, believe it and see that it reinforces their distorted view of Obama created by the Republican attack machine, a machine which is laser tuned to this demographic (the Republicans have this totally figured out). These poor folks don't actually read New Yorker -- or any other magazine which is not mostly pictures for that matter. They're too lazy or borderline illiterate to do so. They barely graduated from high school. To them, the immediate howls of protest from the Obama campaign -- which might be puzzling to those who find the satire obvious and funny -- makes perfect sense. The campaign needs to show that Obama denies it, repudiates it and criticizes it. The fact that the New Yorker prints such a thing is worrying to those of us who understand its potential unintended misinterpretations and reinforcing of fears of Mr. Obama. Satire -- even something so obvious as this -- is really too deep for this class of folks. (Ok, fine. Call me an elitist then.)

But anyway going back to a comment I made some time ago on this blog, for the general election, the Democrats really need to shore up the lowest common denominator pandering. Obama has locked up the most of the intellectuals, or in any case these folks are smart enough to have already made up their minds to a large degree. So, going forward, no more of this subtle approach is needed. Everything needs to be simple and straight-forward and come down like a hammer. It means no satire nor sarcasm nor irony nor subtle humor. Only dumbed down sound bites. Unfortunately, this does not lead to nuanced positions which intellectuals within the Obama campaign may wish to hold forth on.

This is instead an opportunity for apt analogies and simple story-telling. Does this mean Obama needs to become like a, er, Bill Clinton? Maybe...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Iraq: a retrospective

So Bush did the right thing with the surge? He decided to try to salvage a very bad situation by doubling down. Would another commander in chief do the same thing with a huge mistake he'd already invested a huge amount of his country's money and his own reputation -- not to mention the lives -- on? Probably. Bush, least of all, would understand the fallacy of sunk costs.

People, mostly Democrats, had suggested withdrawal, unless political progress was made towards reconciliation. And finally Malliki is making that progress, after the American electorate seemed ready to leave him holding the bag. Meanwhile Bush being obstinate, refused timetables. Without the pressure of the American people, Malliki would have taken even more time than he has in making that small progress. But even with these f--k ups, finally it seems possible for the American military to make a withdrawal from Iraq.

Let's take a Machievellian, er, practical, look at this result:
On the negative side:
(1) Bush, Republicans, and America's reputation stained by false data, fundamentally flawed process, leading to unnecessary war against a non-threatening country far away
(2) $1.2+ trillion spent on aforementioned unnecessary war using borrowed money, leading to weakened US dollar
(3) Enemy Iran strengthened by elimination of hostile neighbor
(4) Taliban and Al Qaeda extremists still not eliminated, both stronger than if the US hadn't gone into Iraq, Afghanistan still unstable
(5) Political uncertainty in the middle east raises oil prices and makes US electorate unhappy
(6) High oil prices strengthen enemies and authoritarian regimes such as Venezuela, Iran, Russia.
On the plus side:
(1) Small but potentially lucrative oil contracts made with companies from western countries, though not all companies are American, despite huge US investment in Iraq.
Seems like a raw deal for Americans handed us by Bush. If the surge hadn't worked, things would have been even worse.